20 January 2020
The Committee on the Rights of the Child this morning opened its eighty-third session at the Palais Wilson in Geneva. The Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session, during which it will review the reports of Belarus, Costa Rica, Hungary, Rwanda, State of Palestine and Austria.
In his address to the Committee, Kyle Ward, Director a.i. of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanism Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Representative of the Secretary-General, said that on 20 November 2019, the Convention had celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with many events around the world involving hundreds of thousands of children. A number of States had renewed their commitment to the full implementation of the Convention here in Geneva and in New York. While it had been a joyous celebration for many children all around the world, millions more children were not able to celebrate due to poverty and exclusion, violence, discrimination, armed conflicts and climate change, among others. More had to be done to avoid that children were always the ones most left behind.
The Committee heard statements from representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Child Rights Connect, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the Secretariat.
The eighty-third session of the Committee will run from 20 January to 7 February 2020. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, are on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.
The Committee will next meet at 3 p.m. today to start its consideration of the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Belarus under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/BLR/5-6).
KYLE WARD, Director a.i. of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanism Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Representative of the Secretary-General, said that on 20 November 2019, the Convention had celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with many events around the world involving hundreds of thousands of children. A number of States had renewed their commitment to the full implementation of the Convention here in Geneva and in New York. While it had been a joyous celebration for many children all around the world, millions more children were not able to celebrate due to poverty and exclusion, violence, discrimination, armed conflicts and climate change, among others. More had to be done to avoid that children were always the ones most left behind.
The extraordinary outreach session in Samoa during the first week of March represented a step forward in the common aspiration to get treaty bodies closer to their relevant right holders, as highlighted by the Chairs of the treaty bodies in their thirty-first meeting last year. Holding this extraordinary session of the Committee in the Pacific region would permit the broader engagement of States parties, civil society and national human rights institutions of the region, as well as United Nations agencies and other stakeholders, especially children. Turning to the third report of the Secretary-General on the status of the treaty body system, Mr. Ward noted that it should be published shortly, and that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would share it with the Committee as soon as it was available. This report reiterated the challenges that were well known to Committee members in relation to providing sufficient regular budget funding for all the mandated activities of the treaty bodies, in particular the required staff.
Unfortunately, the regular budget recently adopted by the General Assembly for 2020 did not correct the shortfall in resources to support the human rights mechanisms. Both resources for the travel of mandate holders and staffing resources to support the preparation of documents for the treaty bodies’ review were inadequate for the full implementation of their mandates. The Office was seeking voluntary contributions from Member States to pilot innovative ideas, including those proposed by the Chairs in their vision statement from last year. The Committee’s extraordinary session in Samoa would represent a significant step in this regard. However, relying on voluntary contributions, while a source of short-term relief, was not a viable option in the long term. Mr. Ward added that he trusted that the 2020 intergovernmental review would look at this situation carefully, and result in a fully resourced and sustainable system.
Despite the continuing financial difficulties, the Office planned to organize the same number of sessions as in 2019, with the additional extraordinary one for this Committee, while hoping the cash-flow problems would not reappear and hamper these plans in the course of the year. There was also some good news: the webcasting of treaty body sessions had been placed on a more solid foundation with the allocation of regular budget resources for this purpose.
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the annual high-level panel discussion of the Human Rights Council on human rights mainstreaming would this year focus on mainstreaming children’s rights through the United Nations system and would take place on 24 February, with the theme of the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention. It would assemble high-level representatives representing the three main pillars of the United Nations, namely human rights, development and peace and security. The Office had engaged with children and youth locally and around the world to foster their engagement with human rights mechanisms. A report on children deprived of liberty had been released in November 2019. Further discussions would be held with partners on ways to strengthen the Office’s work in this area. A full-day seminar would be held on 21 April on children’s equal access to opportunities.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that as the world entered 2020, the situation for displaced and stateless children showed little improvement on previous years. The sheer numbers of children fleeing violence and persecution, which continued to increase year on year, was cause enough for concern. Further, in 2018, over 100 countries were known to detain children in immigration detention. The top five refugee-producing countries all had armed forces and/or groups that were listed for grave violations of children’s rights in armed conflict by the Secretary-General. Over 138,000 asylum-seeking and refugee children were separated from their parents last year alone, although this figure was known to merely be the tip of the iceberg. In the complex decision-making process for particularly vulnerable children, the best interests of the child was the key reference for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which had pledged to apply this principle in all decisions affecting forcibly displaced and stateless children.
Child Rights Connect remarked that progress made in the recognition and protection of children’s rights since the Convention’s adoption had been uneven. Many of the world’s children still lived in situations in which their rights were violated. Children and their representatives continued to face barriers in accessing justice for the violation of children’s rights. Those seeking to promote and protect the rights of children, including children themselves, faced a shrinking space to safely and effectively do so, or attack from private anti-rights actors. This year, Child Rights Connect would pay particular attention to child participation and children human rights defenders. In that regard, Child Rights Connect was establishing a permanent Children’s Advisory Team to inform and engage with its work. Furthermore, Child Rights Connect would aim in 2020 to expand its work around access to justice for child victims of human rights violations.
World Health Organization recalled that it had been going through a transformation process, which had allowed it to work more on children’s human rights issues that were relevant to the Committee’s work. A survey had been conducted on the health of children and adolescents, and this had led to the World Health Organization gathering over 11,000 legal source documents, such as child welfare and birth registration acts, which it would soon analyze. A number of deliverables, such as a database, would be shared with the Committee and could be used to create legal country profiles. This process would also allow the development of a more focused advocacy campaign on the health of children and adolescents. The World Health Organization had also developed a human rights framework for newborns, who, along with their mothers, too often still did not receive the respectful care they were entitled to.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said the digital environment had exponentially enhanced the effective rights to freedom of expression and information of children. In that context, it was important to pay attention to how the rights to freedom of expression online could be exercised in line with the Convention. This issue was linked to the fourth Sustainable Development Goal and the development of adequate education policies. To adequately address these issues, more data was needed, as the digital environment was a complex ecosystem, which should be assessed in a manner that considered all its features. In that regard, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization had developed assessment tools to evaluate the situation in different countries, as well as the state of play with regards to big data, internet of things and artificial intelligence, amongst other issues.
United Nations Children’s Fund said it would soon complete the documentation of six cases on how engagement with human rights mechanisms, including the Committee, had impacted on children and what engagement strategies worked best in triggering this impact. It would produce another child-friendly version of the Convention, for the younger children this time, probably in the form of a video animation. The United Nations Children’s Fund also planned to create an online tool on child rights legislative reform to guide its country offices in supporting Governments in developing or revising comprehensive child rights codes or bills and reflecting child rights in constitutional reforms. It would continue its work on strengthening its internal capacity on the application of a child rights approach. It would of course continue to actively engage with the various human rights mechanisms.
A representative of the Committee’s Secretariat said that the number of ratifications of the Convention on the Rights of the Child remained at 196. Since the last session, the Committee had received seven reports. This brought the number of reports pending consideration to 45, a number that would be reduced to 39 after the current session. Out of the seven received reports, six were under the Convention, namely the periodic reports of Somalia, Albania, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, the Dominican Republic and the Russian Federation. One initial report was overdue as of 20 January, that of South Sudan, which had been received in hardcopy but not in electronic version. There was two new ratifications by Gambia and Myanmar of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict, whose number of ratifications now stood at 170. Maldives had ratified the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, bringing the total number of ratifications to 46.
For use of the information media; not an official record